Sailor Recovers the Boat he was Forced to Set Adrift

By Steve Knauth

SOUNDINGS, March, 1998 -- Tom Cox was in the middle of a boater's worst nightmare.

It was late summer, 1996. Cox stood on the fantail of the cruise liner Royal Majesty and watched his beloved mahogany trimaran, Triad, a gaping hole in its deck where the mast once stood, wallow in the fretful seas off Cape Hatteras, N.C.

Cox and his crew of three were safe aboard the liner, which had diverted from its course to make the rescue and contineud north. But Triad was suddenly nothing more than an abandoned hulk.

"That was the low point. I thought I'd never see it again," says Cox, 50, a Gloucester, Mass., real estate appraiser. "I felt as if I'd lost a child."

But the two were not to be parted for long. Cox and the 42-foot ocean racer he'd sailed for four years and 6,000 off-shore miles were reunited within a week. (Cox hired a salvage company to tow the vessel to Newport. He knew it could be repaired if salvaged.)

Now after 1,000 hours of work, Cox and Triad are ready to head for the open ocean again. The two plan to be at the starting line for the New England Multihull Association's Newport-Bermuda Race June 13.

Cox and the association revived the once-popular biennial race two years ago after a seven-year hiatus. Triad finished second to Greenwich Propane, owned by John Barry of Branford, Conn. It was on the return trip that Cox ran into trouble. Heavy seas and 20-knot winds took their toll on the 14-year old laminated wing mast, which collapsed after the forestay gave way.

"I knew, even when I was stepping off Triad onto the cruise liner, that the boat was repairable," says Cox. "When I saw it again, vowed Triad would, like the phoenix, rise again."

Cox wanted to repair the boat in his hometown of Gloucester, There, he enlisted the help of joiner Jay McLauchlan, who scarfed in new deck beams and shaped a piece of mahagony plywood (a European cut, 8 feet, 4 inches long) for the deck panel. Cox, meanwhile repaired a hole in the side of one hull.

The old mast couldn't be salvaged, so Cox ordered a new composite stick from Composite Engineering of Concord, Mass. Over the winter of 1996-97, Cox repaired the boom, the dagger board and the lifting foils. Last spring, he worked on the toe rail, the grab rail and other odds and ends.

Cox has also brought the 16-year-old boat, built for the 1982 Route de Rhum ocean reace in France, up to date. "Its really a new boat from the deck up," he says. The forestay was moved out to the stem so Cox could go from a small (60 percent) fractional rig to a more modern 78 percent. The new mast is about a foot and a half taller, and Cox lowered the Boom to lengthen the mainsail's luff 3 feet.

Triad was launced last September, and Cox got in a few shakedown runs before winter set in. "It's in as good shape as it's ever been," he says. "It's always been fast in strong winds, but it should be better in moderate air now," says Cox. "The total sail area isn't so different, but where it's placed is better." He used to set a 300-square foot genoa. Now he'll use one about 270 square feet, but the "mainsail is about 60 square feet bigger," he says.

Why put 1,000 hours into a 16-year-old trimaran -- and a wooden one at that? Cox doesn't hesitate with an answer. "This boat is still one heck of a good platform," he says emphatically. "The design is one of the best Dick Newick ever came up with. It's the pinnacle of his evolution through the Panache and Native boats."

Cox is planning on a Momorial Day race, as yeat unspecified, as a final shakedown, part of his plan to "get in a good month before heading to Bermuda."

For information on the New England Multihull Association and the Newport-Bermuda Race, call or fax (978) 281-6787, or send e-mail to